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NFL Dad, Week 5: The fleeting joys of apple picking and the Browns' first lead

Relive Sunday's action with one dad, two toddlers, and six hours of the RedZone channel.

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NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates after a sack against the New York Jets.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

I went apple picking with my daughter and her preschool on Friday. It was three joyful hours at a beautiful farm in the Hudson Valley bracketed by a six-hour round trip on a school bus full of toddlers. This was (A) not nearly as bad as it sounds, but also (B) NOT GREAT, BOB. A rule of parenting: Any place worth taking young kids to requires a trip that at one point will make you regret your decision to leave the house.

Now, if you haven’t gone to an orchard recently, one of the perks is eating freshly picked apples as you fill your bag. And the progression typically goes like this:


(apple #2) Mmmm, so good!

(apple #3) Honestly, I’m good on apples for the season.

Anyway, I came home with more apples than any reasonable family would choose to eat, so my wife is making a pie today. APPLE PIE AND FOOTBALL, LET’S AMERICA THIS SUNDAY UP!


— At 1 p.m. ET, I put my son down for his nap. By the time I turn the TV on, it’s a few minutes into the games, and the first thing I see on the RedZone channel is ... Browns celebrating? That can’t be right.

Then the camera cuts to a wider view that shows they’re playing the Jets, and it makes a little more sense. The celebration is for Myles Garrett, finally making his NFL debut today, who sacked Josh McCown on his first NFL snap.

Cleveland Twitter is celebrating like the Browns just got their first lead of the season (they have not).

— “Can you look at my treasures, Daddy?” says my daughter. Assembled on the table are two acorns, a penny flattened by a hand press, and several rocks sized perfectly for a child’s palm. Eric Ebron drops a pass in the end zone.

A.J. Green hauls in a 77-yard bomb for a touchdown in the Cincinnati rain. Green may be the odd Hall of Fame receiver who is somehow underappreciated his entire career. He’s not as electric as Odell Beckham, not as physically dominating as Julio Jones, less elusive than Antonio Brown. But he’s perfect! He’s fast and graceful and has amazing hands (he’s a skilled juggler), and his only sin is playing in a small market for one of the most underwhelming teams in the NFL.

— A shotgun snap flies past Philip Rivers. He flails to push the ball out of end zone and oh my god it’s beautiful. It’s like the Zion National Park of Rivers flailing.

Rivers is the master of finding the balance between the smart play and self-preservation, and the result is looking like a total spaz. Like, he got BOTH hands on the ball, but covering it up in the end zone would mean a defender falling on him, and Rivers is too smart to take unnecessary hits. That’s why he’s willing to look so dumb. You ever see him get the snap when a lineman jumps offsides? He throws the ball into the ground like it’s delivering 120 volts into his body.

— There’s not much to like about the Tennessee-Miami matchup (Matt Cassel vs. Jay Cutler, yikes) but the mix of Dolphin teal and Titan sky blue is incredibly soothing to me. Stop the game and make them do tai chi on TV, I’ll be perfectly centered.

Carson Wentz has thrown three touchdowns in the first quarter, and Philly leads Arizona 21-0. In the seven other games being played, only three teams have managed even a single touchdown.

— Matt Cassel is strip-sacked for a Dolphins touchdown, and there’s the answer to “How on earth can this Dolphins team score a touchdown with Jay Cutler at quarterback?”

— Christian McCaffrey’s first NFL TD is a shovel pass on an option play, and the Panthers and Lions are tied at 10. I am not opposed to widespread use of wide spread use in the NFL.

DeShone Kizer just committed his SECOND red-zone turnover of the day, an interception thrown at a well-covered receiver. That seems bad.

Confirmed: bad. The Cleveland fans in attendance break out the rarest of surrender cobras: the scoreless first half surrender cobra.

Smart of Cleveland fans to rock Cavs and Indians gear, though. You wanna display your love for the home squad, but you also want plausible deniability after the game.

— The Jets kick a 57-yard field goal as the half expires. They lead 3-0, and the Browns have still never led this season.

— At halftime, the Matt Cassel and Jay Cutler stat lines are ... not good. CBS made a nearly perfect graphic for them, and I have tweaked it only slightly to highlight the inherent emotion of a combined 75 yards passing at 2.7 yards per attempt.

the anthem standers
Matt Ufford


— Fifth-round sophomore Kevin Hogan is in for the Browns. RIP DeShone Kizer, you will be lovingly added to the joke jersey that lists all of the Cleveland quarterbacks since Tim Couch.

Also: where is No Cody Kessler on the depth chart? It seemed like he wasn’t complete dog crap last year. I mean, as Browns QBs go.

— Jalen Ramseys vs. Antonio Brown is a ton of fun to watch. Ben Roethlisberger goes deep down the sideline to Brown, who makes a leaping catch — but he’s out of bounds because of Ramsay’s positioning. That subtle boxing out is only done well by the best in the game.

— BROWNS SCORE! BROWNS SCORE! A great one-handed catch by David Njoku for the team’s first lead all year!

He followed that with a sumo celebration that ended with him spiking the ball into his own butt.

— Matt Cassell has thrown a TD pass to Phillip Supernaw; it’s tied at 10 in Miami. Incidentally, “Supernaw” is my response to a game featuring Cassel and Jay Cutler. This is an easy joke that thousands of people have already made, but I am incapable of not making it. I’m protected by dads’ rights, you can’t stop me.

— Some bird-on-bird crime in Cards-Eagles:

That is rookie Budda Baker, in case you’re the one chiseling the headstone. He didn’t just get burned; he got burned, then juked, and then he missed a tackle. And then watched as Nelson Agholor took the Nestea plunge into the end zone to cap off a 72-yard touchdown that put Philly up 31-7.

By the way, are we still calling it the Nestea plunge? I know I’m a hundred years old and that ad campaign was forever ago, but do the youths know about it? Attention youths: Please Snapchat me about your awareness of the Nestea plunge. I’ll check my messages in 3-4 days.

Ben Roethlisberger has thrown CONSECUTIVE pick-sixes to the Jaguars and I am HERE for the Steelers getting dragged at home. Did I pick the Steelers to cover more than a touchdown in a win? Yes, I did, and I will happily be wrong forever if it means that hairy sentient ham suffers a public humiliation every time he uses the media to chastise the star wide receiver who makes him look good every week.

Well, almost every week.

— Here’s Melvin Gordon stiff-arming Janoris Jenkins into the turf.

I include this because one of the best things SB Nation makes is a show called “Will You Be My Friend?” and you should watch the episode with Gordon. Here, I’ll embed it and you can watch it right now. Go ahead, kick your shoes off and luxuriate on this webpage a little longer.

— My son is up from his nap. He sleepily staggers over and throws his arms around me in a big hug. I know that doesn’t really pop off the screen as anything special, but trust me when I say my brain is FLOODED with dopamine from his carefree smile and chubby arms.

This is the bone that human biology throws to parents. “Oh, is every day with a young child the hardest thing you’ve ever experienced? FINE, bathe in the warmth of infinite love.” And all of us stupid parents are like, “Oh, yeah, that’s good. This is worth surrendering my house to childproofing measures and chiming plastic bullshit.”

Jermaine Kearse is wide open for a TD, and the Jets lead 17-7. Good night, Browns. You were powerless to protect your home turf from the juggernaut Jets as they cruised to 3-2 for a share of the AFC East lead. Fire up the Josh McCown Pro Bowl campaign!

— Odell Beckham gets open behind the defense for a 48-yard touchdown. He celebrates by performing CPR on the ball.

OK, this is just a disastrous mockery of life-saving procedures. First of all, he didn’t even check his ABCs: Airway, Breathing, Circulation. He didn’t perform any rescue breathing. And he performs chest compressions by pumping his arms, which wastes energy; he should keep his arms straight and let his body weight to do the work. No wonder he spikes the ball; his life-saving efforts hastened its death.

— Ben Roethlisberger has thrown his fourth interception. And now a FIFTH! Merry Jagsmas!

— The Lions are attempting a furious comeback against the Panthers, but they started it too late to have any realistic chance of victory. In Cincy, with the Bills trailing 21-16 and two minutes remaining, Tyrod Taylor throws a pick. My daughter wakes up and, noticing the smell from the kitchen, asks what we’re cooking. “What did Mommy say she was going to make?” My daughter is lost in thought for a moment, then her face lights up. “APPLE PIE!!!”

Leonard Fournette rips off a 90-yard sprint for a TD, and the embarrassment is complete. 30-9, Jacksonville.

— The Colts have managed to blow their two-touchdown lead. Leading 23-16 with 24 seconds left, they were a goal line stand away from the W. Instead, on fourth-and-goal, the Niners get a tight end open with a rub route and he just BARELY breaks the plane. Once again, we are saddled with overtime between two crap teams instead of sending them home with the tie they earned (or ending with a do-or-die two-point conversion, which would likely be more exciting, and certainly faster).

— Oh no. Odell Beckham is injured and crying. You can tell from his face that he knows his season is over. UGH.

The Giants are up 22-20 late in the game, but they already don’t have a rushing game, and Beckham is the FOURTH Giants wideout to leave with an injury. Eli Manning is gonna have to run the wing-T from a goal line formation.

My daughter, who is almost healed from her broken collarbone, is looking at the screen with concern. I say, “He’s sad because he hurt his leg, sweetie.”

My wife adds, “Where’s he going to go to make his leg better? Who’s he going to see?”

My daughters face brightens. “To the DOCTOR!”

On the next play, Manning is strip-sacked. The Chargers recover and take the lead on a touchdown pass to Melvin Gordon, his second score of the day. The Giants have no response. They deserve to have the dignity of running up a white flag and packing it up for the day; instead, Eli Manning throws an interception on fourth-and-10. Even for a team that entered the game winless, the final four minutes of this game were especially gutting for the Giants.


— Ahhh, my beloved Seahawks! The first play RedZone shows of them is third-and-14 for Russell Wilson and the offense, which is the most Seahawks down and distance possible. Alec Ogletree sacks Wilson. Excellent. Yes. This is the good shit I choose to watch every week.

— In Oakland, Jared Cook’s fumble is returned for a Ravens TD, and Baltimore is up 14-0 less than four minutes into the game. With Derek Carr out, EJ Manuel is responsible for getting the Raiders back into the game. With all due respect to Joe Flacco’s crappiness, this game is effectively over. I will not write another update about it unless Marshawn Lynch, like, crowdsurfs in the Black Hole after scoring a touchdown.

— After an easy drive down the field, an apparent Todd Gurley touchdown is wiped off the board when replay shows that Earl Thomas’ goal-line chop knocked the ball loose short of the goal line, resulting in a touchback for the Seahawks (it’s the second time Thomas has done this against the Rams). The end zone fumble/touchback foible remains the most inexplicable rule in football, and I love it very much in this moment.

Jacoby Brissett throws a pick in end zone. Hey! What are the 49ers and Colts still doing here? This is late-game territory, busters. I may have to start organizing this column under different headings. Let’s wrap this one up: The 49ers will do nothing with the ball, punt, and lose on an Adam Vinatieri 51-yarder.

— My daughter wants me to summon pictures of Rapunzel from Tangled on my computer screen. She has never seen the movie or even read the kids’ mini-book. her only familiarity with the story is the generic fairy tale. But she has an electronic reader with a picture of the Mouse’s Rapunzel, and that is enough to stoke the flames of curiosity. (shaking fist) DISNEEEEYYYYY!!!

— Following a methodical Dallas touchdown drive, Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers downfield and throws a perfect strike to Davante Adams. Mason Crosby, however, misses the extra point, and Packers trail 7-6. This game appears to be just as good as Fox had hoped.

— After the Seahawks throw an interception on a trick play, the Rams drive deep into Seahawks territory. On third-and-11, Jared Goff hands off to Tavon Austin, who goes untouched for a 27-yard touchdown. I had hoped that whatever Jeff Fisher-brand Seahawks poison the Rams employed over the last five years would be gone from this Rams team, but apparently not.

— I am starving. I haven’t eaten since a late breakfast, and my entry into our small kitchen puts me on the hook for making the kids’ dinner. While I toast a bagel for myself and cook quesadillas for the kids, the Seahawks recover a muffed punt, only to blow easy points by throwing an interception that flips the field position.

Thanks to Russell Wilson’s touchdown-saving tackle, the defense is able to hold the Rams to a field goal and a 10-0 lead. But you know what’s even better than hustling back to save a touchdown? Not throwing 40 yards across the field so a safety can undercut your throw with an open field ahead of him.

While I cook, my daughter is “reading” an illustrated Bible. She’s quiet and content for a long time, until she wants to know why some people are crying. Those are just Lazarus’ friends, sweetie. Don’t worry, he turned out fine.

— Dallas goes for it on fourth-and-less-than-a-yard from the Green Bay 21, and Dak dives ahead to move the chains. A few plays later, he throws a perfect pass to Dez Bryant for a diving TD. The Cowboys lead 21-6, and are totally dominating time of possession.

— My daughter: “I’m going to the bayou!” She must have gotten her mitts on The Princess and the Frog again. I would love to thaw Walt Disney’s head just to punch him in the face one time.

— On second-and-goal from the Rams 4, the Seahawks throw a jump ball to Jimmy Graham, who uses his height advantage to pull in an easy touchdown. This is the sort of thing that Seahawks fans expected would become commonplace when the team traded for Graham three years ago, but has almost never happened because the coaching staff is allergic to exploiting potential mismatches.

The touchdown caps an impressive, time-consuming 75-yard drive. I didn’t take any notes on it, though, because I didn’t want to jinx it. I am sane.

— The Seahawks tie the game at 10 with a 48-yarder just before the half. Unprompted, my daughter sings, “There is nothing else, and I love you anyway.” That’s it, young lady. No more playing with haunted dolls.

— In Dallas, Green Bay scores on a 7-yard run from rookie Aaron Jones, who’s getting the start in place of the injured Ty Montgomery. The score is 21-12 after another missed extra point. Bad day for Crosby.


— My son has finished his dinner, and he is singularly focused on playing with bubbles, even though that’s strictly forbidden in the apartment. The kid is WILD about blowing bubbles. It’s not enough to blow bubbles FOR him; he needs to hold onto the wand AND the soap solution himself, even though he ends up immediately dumping the solution out EVERY TIME, which results in tears. So I’ll usually try to hold on to the container with the solution, but he’ll grab at it and start crying.

Please believe me when I tell you I hate these motherfucking bubbles. I am THIS CLOSE to banning all bubble-related objects from the apartment. NO ONE GETS ANY BUBBLES UNTIL YOUR FINE MOTOR SKILLS IMPROVE.

— “Daddy, do you want to go in the hallway?” my daughter asks. My wife is taking the kids to the end of the hall to set up the bubble machine (one of these doohickeys). I tell her I’ll join her as soon as I get a little more work done, and in my head “Cats in the Cradle” plays.

The Rams face a third-and-10, the Seahawks blitz their linebackers, and Goff runs more than 20 yards through the space they vacated yards for first down. UGH. In the hallway, I hear the shrieks of delight.

A few plays later, the Rams convert another third-and-10 conversion to get into the red zone, and you know what? I don’t really give a shit what the stupid Rams and Seahawks do.

I go out into the hallway. My daughter is shouting “BUBBLES!” and her brother is saying “BUH-BUH!” because he is a tiny diapered caveman. The stress I had from watching football has evaporated. Bubbles, man. I gotta rethink my stance.

— When I go back to the apartment to get some paper towels, I see Jordy Nelson drop a slant that would be a touchdown. Green Bay kicks kicks a field goal (hey, a kick that worked!) to cut the lead to 21-15.

My daughter followed me back inside and, seeing her untouched dinner, suddenly realizes she’s hungry. She eats better when we read to her at mealtime, so I read to her a rugelach recipe from a Smitten Kitchen cookbook. She makes odd requests, OK?

— Hey, the Rams and Seahawks are still tied! How did the Rams blow that scoring chance? Bubbles, man. I ran a bubble screen on them.

— My son comes back into the apartment, and I pull him up into my lap while reading my daughter a marbled pumpkin gingersnap tart recipe. His heart is racing from the excitement in the hallway, and he’s clawing at the neck of his tee shirt. I take it off him to get him ready for the bath; he’s soaked with sweat. Little dude raved too hard.

— This is too many Seahawks-Rams updates, so let’s wrap this one up, even if it messes with chronology: The Rams can’t stop turning the ball over, and the Seahawks can’t do anything with the ball when they get it. After my kids go to bed, Cooper Kupp drops what would have been a game-winning touchdown. Seahawks win, 16-10.

The lesson: Never try to stretch the ball over the goal line if Earl Thomas is in the same ZIP code.

— In Dallas, Green Bay has mounted a comeback despite strategically trying to blind Aaron Rodgers.

YOU FOOLS! Blindness can’t stop Aaron Rodgers! He quarterbacks mostly by echolocation and proprioception.

The light streaming into AT&T Stadium DOES look cool as hell, though. It reminds me of some Getty photos from a few years back:

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Hard to believe that’s Brandon Weeden under center, isn’t it? Nevertheless, it’s no surprise that a Weeden offense could only look good in still images.

— Dallas has bled a ton of clock with an epic drive to retake the lead, but Rodgers gets the ball back with a minute left and a timeout. He takes the snap staring straight into the sun … and throws a perfect back-shoulder pass to Davante Adams. On the next play, with the sun still in his eyes, he completes it to Martellus Bennett for another first down. See? He’s like a bat, or a dolphin.

— Anyone who’s ever played the Packers knows how this ends: with an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass, and your heart broken. Mike McCarthy should be jailed for only going to one Super Bowl with this demigod.

Time for pie!